Japan's island of the damned. How a nation exiled its lepers
THE white-painted arched span, like a miniature version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is barely 100 metres long - but it took more than half a century to get it built. This highly symbolic bridge links Japan's mainland with a tiny, mountainous island called Naga-shima which juts out of the warm, grey waters of the Seto Inland Sea, surrounded by a cobweb of oyster-beds. Since 1930, when the first settlers came to Naga-shima, the only way to reach the island was by ferry or by swimming across the fast-flowing straits in which many people drowned. And that was the way most Japanese wanted it to stay, because Naga-shima is one of the country's most shameful secrets - an island of the damned, where people were exiled, never to return.